Friday, November 9, 2012

Recap: Hell Day, Oct. 31

A biting, cold, sunny morning greeted us as we scurried in shifts to grab a hot breakfast at the hotel. We'd arrived less than six hours before.

After re-packing the car -- we didn't want to leave our CD cases and had had to unpack the suitcases as well as the dog food and things -- we gassed up the vehicles and headed east.

With an obvious cold front pressing down on us, and steering into the teeth of what was left of superstorm Sandy, things deteriorated as the day progressed.

I think we got out about 10 a.m. As we entered Indianapolis, we saw a giant billboard: "Vote for Romney and Mourdock. Vote for freedom."

So I guess voting another way was a vote against freedom? Huh. Call me a freedom-hater, then, I guess. For me, the idea of moving from a conservative region to a progressive one was a win.

Passing through Indianapolis, we went by the gigantic Lucas Oil Stadium. It looked impressive. On to Ohio.

As we went east, it started to cloud up. We wouldn't see sunlight much the next two days. At Dayton it began to drizzle. It would be rainy the rest of this leg. This cheated us out of probably at least one hour of daylight. Northeast Ohio would steal another one.

As we approached the Pennsylvania border in far northeast Ohio, traffic ground to a standstill. We were being funneled into a single lane. After a while, we saw why: In the last light of day, a semi was being picked up piece-by-piece to our right. I don't know what happened exactly, but usually destruction of that type is brought on by a collision with a train. The front end was a pile of metal. The slightly upturned cargo area was having bits of broken road and associated litter scooped into it by a bulldozer. It was a mess.

And it cost us an hour of light, as the rain picked up.

The drive toward Erie (Erie... perfect for Halloween) picked up a little once past the mess, but we still had eight hours to go.

At this point, I wondered if we shouldn't admit defeat, find someplace to stay and push the whole schedule back a day.

That would have been a challenge, it seems. On I-86, there isn't much going on. I got worried at one point, in fact, that I wouldn't be able to find a place to refuel. Western New York looks like it could be a very interesting place. The mountains we could faintly make shape of in the gloomy darkness seemed impressive. The trip in daylight would have been much more enjoyable.

However, the roads were a disgrace. The Southern Tier Expressway is in disrepair. I've driven extensively in Oklahoma, which I thought had the worst road quality anywhere. No more. This stretch of I-86 is awful. Several times I hit some pothole or expansion joint and thought "there goes a TV/plate/glass/picture frame."

We would wind up losing a few items. I partly attribute this to I-86, and partly attribute to the somewhat  crappy packing job we got in Fayetteville.

Throw in rain and a darkness that would be scary if you were on foot, and it made for a rough travel. M got tired and was trying to be a trouper; but I had told her not to do that. If one of us got tired, we needed to stop. In a place called Angelica, N.Y., we had to stop. She caught a catnap of about 30 minutes and we pressed on. Finally, at 3 a.m. again, we made it to Oneonta.

There wasn't much exciting about this leg. It was just a true endurance run, and not something I recommend or probably will ever do again. Our goal was too aggressive. The craziest part is that at one point we considered making this trip in two days. Fortunately we opted against that.

We crumbled into bed at Oneonta in the middle of the night on Nov. 1. The next day would be tough, too, but we'd covered more than 1,300 miles now and the worst was behind us.

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